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These are my notes from the Wednesday, October 29th EDUCAUSE 2008 session, “The 2008 Campus Computing Survey,” presented by Casey Green, Founding Director, The Campus Computing Project.

Although I know I can just purchase and read the report, I go to this session every year because I respect the Campus Computing Project and I love hearing things from the horse’s mouth. Casey opened the session by admonishing those in the audience who had not responded to the survey this year, telling them that they were, “skating on other people’s data.” Apparently, the N was down a bit. You can review the executive summary online.

At the end of the session, Casey listed some defining issues and one really stuck with me. He asked why, after all these years and given that new faculty are not the digital Luddites of yesteryear, do they not do more with technology? Why is it still such a struggle? I love this question. It should be on the survey! If you ask IT professionals, you might get responses such as,”Faculty are afraid, slow, lazy…[insert nasty personality characteristic here].” If you ask faculty, they will tell you, “We don’t have the time, support, tools, classrooms…[insert nasty environmental characteristic here].” This tendency to over attribute the behavior of others to their disposition and our own behavior to our situation is called the actor-observer bias and it’s a common mistake. So what’s the unbiased truth? I don’t know for certain, but the answer is certainly knowable. Here are some random ideas:

  • Each year, ECAR conducts a survey of students and their experiences with IT. I think it would be great if a similar faculty survey could be conducted annually. Given that the actor-observer bias will skew faculty self-report toward situational explanations, we can’t rely on survey data alone. Multiple methods will need to be used, including unobtrusive and indirect measures.
  • If you look at the 2008 ECAR student survey data, 44% of student respondents indicated that “Most” or “Almost All” of their instructors used IT effectively in their classes. Unfortunately, the same question was not asked last year. However, when asked to rate their agreement with a similar statement in 2007, “Overall, instructors use IT well in my courses,” 58% of students agreed or strongly agreed. What’s going on here? Are faculty becoming less proficient? Are students expecting more? These sorts of questions provide valuable insight into instructional practices. I think the ECAR student survey should ask more focused questions about the effectiveness of faculty use of specific academic tools (e.g., within a course management system).
  • Casey lamented in his presentation that we know how many schools are using course management systems, but we don’t know what they are doing with them. Are faculty simply posting their syllabi or is breadth and depth of use increasing? Is anyone measuring this well (e.g., either directly or by mining CMS data)? If so or if you are interested in developing something together, please contact me (kgraetz@winona.edu)!

Ken